Student Richard O'Dwyer spared US extradition and jail time over TV-Shack copyright charges

Student Richard O'Dwyer spared US extradition and jail time over TV-Shack copyright charges

Summary: The erstwhile TVShack.net proprietor, who faced up to a decade in a US jail on copyright infringement charges, has struck a deal with the authorities there that will see him pay a relatively small amount of compensation.

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British student Richard O'Dwyer, who had been facing extradition to the US on copyright infringement charges, has struck a deal that will see him avoid a jail sentence there.

richard-odwyer
Richard O'Dwyer was the founder of TVShack.net. Image: Change.org

According to the BBC, O'Dwyer will go to the US voluntarily, rather than being extradited, and will pay "a small sum of compensation" to cover his alleged infringements. Court News UK states that the agreement was signed within the last two days.

O'Dwyer ran a site called TVShack.net, which was seized in mid-2011 by US Immigration and Customs. The site hosted links to other websites, where users could find streams of TV shows and films. According to the US authorities, he netted $230,000 (£147,000) in advertising revenue off the site.

Home secretary Theresa May signed O'Dwyer's extradition order in March this year. If he had not struck the deal that has just been agreed, he would have faced up to a decade in a US prison.

Was it a crime in the UK?

It is not entirely clear whether TVShack.net was illegal under UK law. It was in many ways similar to another site called RnBXclusive, which the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) took down in February under conspiracy-to-defraud, rather than copyright, law — both sites directed users to other sites that unlawfully held copyright content, rather than hosting such content themselves.

O'Dwyer's case raised the hackles of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who launched a campaign on his behalf in June. Wales's Change.org petition gathered more than 250,000 signatures.

The UK has a rather lopsided extradition arrangement with the US that was put in place in the context of the 'war on terror'. Under the arrangement, the US can demand the extradition of a UK citizen to face charges there without probable cause. The reverse does not apply.

The same arrangement very nearly led to the extradition of self-confessed 'NASA hacker' Gary McKinnon, who fought extradition to the US for around a decade. McKinnon, who suffers from a form of autism, was spared extradition last month, when May scrapped the extradition order. It remains to be seen whether he will face charges in the UK over the 2002 hacking episode.

Open Rights Group chief Jim Killock said in a statement that it was "great that [O'Dwyer's] extradition request will be dropped", but he should not have been up for extradition at all.

"Is the UK government happy for the US to assume jurisdiction over every UK Internet user? The government would do well to take a long hard look at its extradition arrangements with the USA," Killock said.

Topics: Piracy, Government US, Government UK, United Kingdom

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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20 comments
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  • Another example of "emergency" powers being abused

    "The UK has a rather lopsided extradition arrangement with the US that was put in place in the context of the 'war on terror'. Under the arrangement, the US can demand the extradition of a UK citizen to face charges there without probable cause. The reverse does not apply."

    Some TV shows may qualify as "atrocities" but it strikes me as abusing the "arrangement" to use it to demand extradition of this guy. Isn't there any way of repealing it? Or at least balancing it out?
    Zogg
    • Agreed

      However the fact remains that this particular law was misapplied in this case as this law is supposed to cover terrorist activities... while was O'Dwyer did was illegal IN THE US it was not a terrorist activity.
      athynz
      • And...

        Why was it *Immigration and Customs* that "siezed" his website?
        Hallowed are the Ori
      • But the US has some weirs laws around the dollar

        I read somewhere that the dollar is in effect owned by the US and any crime involving dollars makes you accountable to the US. Some obscure fraud or benefit accruing US dollars puts you at risk. I know it sound implausible but trust me, I read it as part of my banking risk work. Someone in the know will no doubt flame me in two minutes but most feedback will probably help define the point.
        johnmckay
  • Bribery

    The only reason this is even illegal in the states is because big content has realized it's easier to bribe a few politicians and get laws passed that are completely unjust then it is to try to people to agree with their very narrow view of whats right.
    wizardb@...
    • Oh Here We Go Again

      It's illegal because he helped people steal content and earned $230K from doing it. And what the author completely failed to mention in his article was that ORIGINALLY HE WAS SIMPLY TOLD BY THE FBI TO STOP AND SHUT DOWN THE SITE. He basically blew them off after they contacted him, said "Whatever", and continued the site. Then the you-know-what hit the fan. He would be facing ZERO fines and ZERO criminal penalties had he simply shut off the site. That he's faced any criminal proceedings at all was because he turned down what amounts to an original offer to get off with a warning with no criminal charges filed at all. "Big Content" has nothing to do with this. The guy basically flipped off the government and that's why he got into this mess. That he's gotten a second sweetheart deal is really amazing. The takeaway from this case and McKinnon is that the UK really does coddle its criminals, which explains the hooligan culture and crime rate there. McKinnon only suddenly got diagnosed with Asperger's after he got caught hacking into U.S. military computers (repeatedly) and attempting to access classified data, causing a great deal of damage in the process. But once folks like the majority of posters here trot out the poor, victimized Briton being abused by the big, bad evil America/corporate interest story, Britain rallies around its criminals and hugs them tight to its chest and tells them it'll all be alright and that they're just misunderstood and it's all society's fault. :-(
      jgm@...
      • What he was doing was not a crime in the UK

        Therefore he's not a criminal in the UK.

        > "HE WAS SIMPLY TOLD BY THE FBI TO STOP AND SHUT DOWN THE SITE"
        Again, he's a UK citizen living in the UK. And I *think* the FBI is a US institution...

        > "The guy basically flipped off the government..."
        Not "the" government, the one governing the country in which he lives. You are talking about a foreign government. Do you consider yourself bound by the laws of countries you do not live in?

        > "Britain rallies around its criminals and hugs them tight to its chest..."
        And again, O'Dwyer has committed no crime in the UK and so is not a criminal.
        Zogg
      • US-centric - much?

        I presume you think the US IS the world? As above, you live your life by Saudi laws? No, then why should we worry about yours? No hosted content = no valid copyright infringement so you tell me where the crime is.

        It's still making me laugh how you think the world is answerable to the US? Maybe you should buy a passport and get out more.

        Final comment - UK hooligan and crime culture? WTF - are you serious? V's US crime and gang culture, the UK is like a teddy bear's picnic.

        Oh I see, you're trying to be funny by using lies and BS. Yes, I fell for it. I now see that your comments can't be taken seriously at all.
        Little Old Man
  • Extradtition

    With the resolving of these two cases can any hope be held out for Assange ?
    syhprum
    • Well...

      No.

      There is quite a bit of difference in providing links to pirated content on your website and the posting of classified military and government documents on your website.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • True I'm not an Americian, but

        But I have difficulty understanding this one.
        I might be wrong but isn't there some old piece of parchment in the US that says something to the effect of We The People...etc. Government by the people and for the people etc.
        If such a document does in fact exist and carry any legal weight at all. Does that not mean the government is the people. As apposed to some Alien species. So. if these were "Government documents" then by default they are the Peoples documents, owned by the people since the government is the people. How can anyone be charged for distributing some thing that are already owned by everyone. The government doesn't OWN anything, things OWNED by the government are "Public Property"
        Or does this fall under the same category, as "All men are created equal" as long as your not female, black..etc
        csumbler
      • And McKinnon should be prosecuted

        But in the UK where the crime took place. Even if he was looking for alien life, he wasn't allowed to be looking where he was and hacked his way in. He chose to hack those systems and should rightfully be punished - in the UK where the crime took place.
        Little Old Man
    • O'Dwyer has to go to the US voluntarily to sign the deal.

      Which should answer your question... ;-)
      Zogg
  • LOPSIDED EXTRADITION ARRANGEMENT

    LOPSIDED EXTRADITION ARRANGEMENT

    As I understand it, the reason for the one sided agreement was that the UK signed up for it, and then those in power in the US, suddenly realised that a US president could be extradited to the UK for war crimes. Therefore, America did not implement their side of the extradition agreement.
    concrete lamposts
    • In which case, why wasn't the whole thing torn up?

      As I understand it, one side cannot break an agreement and still expect the other side to honor it too.
      Zogg
  • just firewall the US off

    please, just delete them. Ignore them. Shun them. Have no truck with US commerce, industry, media, culture (hah!) The US, who are they? oh the United States of Europa? Where democracy was born? Other guys? just a speedbump in history. Best not to think about them and move on.
    walkerjian@...
    • Hello Brits

      As an American, I totally agree with you and I am ashamed of all the heavy handed bullying that the US does. Somebody needs to bitch-slap the US government every once in a while to put her in her place.
      oops77541
  • Look up Hobbit torrent on Google

    All his site did was direct people to where illegal content was, he did not host any himself, earning his money of advertising.

    Search for "Hobbit torrent" on Google, and they'll happily point you in a similar direction, with ad;s aswell, even though the film only premiered yesterday in New Zealand, and does not go on general release until mid-December.

    Are the Fed's going to bust Larry Page and Sergey Brin @ Google for the same - I think not.
    neil.postlethwaite
    • Although I'd have been more sympathetic if he'd not had adverts on his site

      He may not have broken any UK laws, but I think he was still profiting from ethically dubious means.
      Zogg
      • Ehtically Dubious?????

        Please define "Ethically Dubious"
        From my viewpoint it is just legal waffle when you don't have a case to stand on. Was he breaking the law.. No!!
        Now if we were to cast our vision to the US and their practice of having large business subsidising polititions to gain a favorable outcome to their interests then that is unethical. In the UK it is know as Bribery.
        Marcwolf1960